Adams was on the court in Game 3 when the fourth quarter started, the Clippers up 90-86. Adams played 4:09, and when he departed, the Thunder had caught LA, 96-96.
“I look at Steven as a guy who’s going to continue to get better,” Brooks said. “He’s 20 years old. He understands he impacts the game by playing hard, he impacts the game by running the floor, he impacts the game by being big around the basket.”
Big around the basket. That’s a good way to put it. Adams is big and athletic. Takes up space, doesn’t get pushed around. And when the game moves into the air, Adams can join it.
“Steven is growing every single game,” Kevin Durant said Friday night. “He’s learning from one of the best defensive centers in the league in Perk (Kendrick Perkins) and Nick (Collison). He’s just following their lead and coming out and playing extremely hard. Tonight he was good for us. We’re going to need him to be better. He has another level he can go to, as well. We’re excited about it.”
Truth is, Adams is the Thunder’s center of the future. And that future could be as early as next season. It’s not crazy to think of Adams starting next season, with the aging Perk serving as the defensive backup.
“He’s playing aggressive,” Perkins said of Adams. “One thing we know about Steven, he gonna play physical. And he’s picking up the little things, so he’s been playing well.”
Adams still isn’t a premier defensive center. He gets beat on the pick’n roll much more than does Perkins. But Adams is indeed learning. And he knows when he’s fouled up. Adams on Friday night lamented all his missed defensive assignments.
“Pretty bad,” he said with a luscious Kiwi accent. “I screwed up quite a lot of coverages and helpsides. I should have been there.”
The Thunder can live with it. Adams brings energy and physicality and athletic ability. He can mix it up with most anyone in the NBA. Adams is one major reason the Thunder keeps improving. And might not be finished getting better.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.